I'd much rather read than write so it's not much of a blog...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ending On A High Note



I searched online, found several helpful sites but still had to extrapolate time & temp without knowing exactly what cut I was dealing with, the age or condition of the animal or how it was handled in the field.

In the end it came down to luck and I was lucky indeed to have been given such a gorgeous piece of venison by The Mister's friend, Dallas.

My first venison roast and it was splendid.

It looked good when I opened the package and dried it off. It smelled wonderful as I browned it with a light rub of crushed juniper and fresh rosemary, salt and pepper, and then while it roasted in the oven. But it was when I took the first pass with the knife that I knew it was a beauty; it absolutely cut like butter.

It was tender beyond description, mild and slightly sweet, a perfect Christmas roast served with garlic smashed potatoes and pan roasted Brussels sprouts. Not such a low-keyed Christmas after all...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Low-Keyed Xmas


I looked at the mantle this morning and realized it represents the sum total interest we have in Christmas. Every year the holiday seems more hollow and only the presence of our nephew the past few years made it worth recognizing at all but this year he's spending Christmas with his new ladyfriend and her family.

While I don't miss much about Christmas I still wanted to bring out my mother's paper mache deer. A few greens, a bayberry candle and that's it. Oh and a figgy pudding...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Back In Business



Back in business and glad of it. Unfortunately the repairman, anticipating that he would be replacing the hinges, made matters worse with the door but I can make do. 

The latch on the microwave door has also broken so the stars align and this spring we will be putting in a new cabinet with new ovens. I just hope this will be the last time I will ever have to do this.

For the moment though the oven works. On Friday I set it to self-clean while I cleaned the racks and the screen and the bread dough rose. It seems the new element will require some adjustments in my baking but now there's homemade bread in the house again.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Little Light



I took Buster #3 down to Cindy yesterday. If I had thought to take a camera I might have gotten a good picture after Cindy transfered it to a larger cage. It put on quite a display, bouncing around, looking for a way out, giving my friend, Genie, her first look at a flying squirrel.

I'm not sure what The Mister will want to do now but I don't really want to move anymore flyers in the hope that there are still some around to take up residence in a box next year.

Meanwhile after a long night of gale force winds the temperature has dropped. This morning while it feels more like winter it doesn't feel like the solstice is only a week away.  

The only irrefutable sign of the season is the length of day. 

I've never minded the shorter days this time of year, at least not at the beginning of winter. I welcome the excuse to burn candles in the evening including some true bayberry tapers made by my neighbor, Tom Helsher and always, always, burned to the socket.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Buster #2



We've had more nighttime noise in the attic recently so I reset two traps. I didn't expect any success after finding the traps closed with no quarry on several previous tries and I certainly didn't expect another flyer but that's what we caught last night shortly after midnight.

In the spring when we repair the vents I'd like to put up a flying squirrel house. I found plans for one along with a lot of other information at FlyingSquirrels.com. Thank you Steve Patterson!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Museum Glass®



I have renewed appreciation for another framed piece that belonged to my parents, a watercolor of the Lake Erie shore (possibly near Rocky River) by an artist they knew, Shirley Akeroyd. My mother had it reframed years ago with non-glare glass which obscured the painting from the beginning and then discolored over time.

When the old glass was removed I was again delighted to see color and brushwork that I didn't remember having seen before. Since I wanted to keep the original frame I didn't hesitate to choose Museum Glass for the glazing. I think Museum Glass maybe one of the most exciting things I've come across in a long time.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mostarda di Mantova



Mustard seed is also one of those things, like coffee or chocolate, that makes me wonder about the people who first thought to make something edible from it. Accounts vary widely but I think mustard seed was probably used to flavor something like mostarda and then came to dominate the condiment.

The last of the quince got a bit dry so I used it in a batch of mostarda. I used Amy Sherman's recipe and replaced the apple with quince.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mustards



I love mustards, I suspect because, as my mother did, I love vinegar.

I used to have many varieties of mustard and vinegar in my pantry but I have cut way back on both. Even though I know it's still probably more than most people keep on hand, I take it as a small point of pride that I now limit myself to:

a Dijon, usually Grey Poupon
a classic yellow, French's, Plochman's or another
a course stoneground such as Pommery Moutarde de Meaux (if only I could figure out what to do with the crocks...)
Anton Kozlik's Triple Crunch and usually a couple of others from him
Ridley's Fuggle Mustard

And now perhaps my all-time, eat-it-with-a-spoon, favorite:

I first heard about this mustard in a newsletter from ChefShop.com and couldn't resist it at the mention of the Banyuls vinegar. I've ordered more from Honest Foods and this time it's coming in regular jars so I won't have to worry about anymore little crocks.

I am sorry this wonderful mustard comes all the way from California but at least one of the goodies I like to put in on comes from much closer to home:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Buying Time

There are no longer any replacements for the hinges but the repairman seems confident a new heating element will give me time to make a decision about the oven, the cabinet, the rest of my life in a kitchen.

The entire world seems to be about buying time right now but of course that can't go on forever. I just wonder if the center can hold until spring...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Budget Buster



When we moved into this house we replaced very old, very beat-up built-in kitchen appliances. It didn't seem a wholly unreasonable thing to do since we weren't replacing the cabinets. It was only a couple of years ago when a stop on the oven door, possibly a spring, broke that I fully realized the additional cost of built-ins and that I was right and truly stuck with them.

Now the bottom heating element in the 23-year-old oven isn't working. I have to do something but I don't like my choices.

For one thing, I do not like 'stainless' appliances. I do not want my kitchen to look anything like a commercial enterprise and I do not want to clean more fingerprints than I already do but it's gotten nearly impossible to find anything other than 'stainless'.

It also irritates me no end that these things are being built with shorter and shorter life expectancies. I had to call Dacor to find out if they even make a replacement heating element and the young man I spoke to said they estimate the life of their new ovens to be seven to ten years!!! I don't know about Electrolux; I don't think I want to know.

What I would like to do is just bite the bullet, buy the Electrolux and slide it into the cabinet even if it doesn't fit perfectly.

But no, it won't fit, even imperfectly. It turns out manufacturers have resolved one of the problems I've had with my old oven, the shallow depth. The new ovens require the full cabinet depth and a junction box below the cutout floor.

We are now looking at a new oven and a new cabinet. Just shoot me.

The repairman comes today. I know it doesn't make much sense to put money into the old oven but even if we were ready to order things today it would several weeks before I would have a working oven again. I'm just hoping the heating element can be fixed...

And I'm just glad I wasn't planning to host Thanksgiving.

I Once Was Gaga for Aga



Thinking about the kitchen and ovens reminds me of one of my favorite fantasies, having an Aga cooker. Maybe I'll at least visit one again someday at The Sugartree.

Graham Hewison and Maxine Longmuir

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Cactus Reborn


My husband used to pick up a little floral item for my mother when he stopped to see her on his trips to visit his own family. Several years ago he gave her this Thanksgiving cactus. My mother liked it because even when it wasn't blooming it provided a welcome bit of color.

One night during her last winter at Governor's Pointe, the cactus froze when it was left on the sill of an open window. My mother kept it in its freeze-dried state until her move last November when I half-heartedly packed it with the stuff I brought home.

I don't really know why I bothered but I put it on the porch and every once in awhile I gave it some water. Last spring when I was potting up seedlings I finally repotted the cactus and a few weeks later I was astonished to see little bits of new growth. I've never had one of these cacti before so it's been fascinating to watch this sad thing come back to life after months of absolutely nothing.

And now it's blooming!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

End of an Era



Every so often these days something reminds me anew my mother is gone. Not being able to share "The Goat Rodeo Sessions" with her (we listened to a lot of Yo Yo Ma in her last days) is one thing. My current jam & jelly inventory is another.

Over the years the jam making fell to me. After my mother moved to assisted living she actually went through more jam because she would take a jar to the dining room at breakfast and share it with her tablemates or give a jar to someone as a thank you gift.

Over the past year my mother wasn't using much jam at all and – I'm not sure why –  I haven't been giving away as much as I used to so now it comes as a bit of surprise every time I open the freezer door and see it only half-full.

(Even though I don't make freezer jam I keep my jam in a freezer because the color and the flavor hold up so much better.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Goat Rodeo Sessions



I haven't enjoyed a new recording this much in a long time. I can't count how many times I've played it in the past week and it's still making me smile.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Toni Onley 1928-2004



I first saw the work of Toni Onley in a gallery in Victoria, B.C. years ago. I always thought it would be a daunting task to chose one of the many luminous landscapes he painted but if I had $15,000 to spend today – and a wall big enough – I think I would chose the 40x30 oil, 
"Pond, Asuka, Japan".  


As it is I was happy to find a limited number of Onley's watercolors are still available as prints and from them we chose "Heel Rock" to commemorate #40 . I love it and at 27.5x21.5, framed, I didn't have to build an addition to hang it...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Autumn 2011


















It has been a spectacular fall here and I feel lucky to have had the chance to get caught up on so much of what I wasn't able to do this summer. Last night it didn't get below 48º/9º and while I'm not sure that's a good thing, I'm happy to be heading back out this morning to reclaim the beds in the front of the house.

My father always insisted that an Indian Summer could only occur after a killing frost and while the temperatures may not be quite warm enough this week, it's Indian Summer in my book.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Garlic & Aioli


Thermadrone Garlic

I didn't plant garlic last year so I bought more than usual this year including a couple of first-time varieties, Thermadrone and Leningrad. I made aioli with three small cloves of the Thermadrone and after tasting it I selected twelve big cloves to plant in the garlic bed this past week. I really can taste the reason why this garlic is preferred for certain dishes.


I got  my Thermadrone, Metechi, Chesnook Red and some Nootka Rose in my first-time order from P D Farms through Gourmet Garlic Gardens. I will definitely order from them again; all the garlic I have from them is an exceptionally nice size, very clean and well cured. I've also planted some Music again, this time from another GGG grower closer to home, Eric Hickey. He also grows the Leningrad. Last but not least, I'm trying some Red Toch again from Big John's Garden

I know enough now to order early but I'm sorry that it was only after I had blown my garlic budget that I discovered an organic grower I patronized several years ago at the Regional Market is now exclusively growing garlic!

I will order some garlic from Darren and Salvere Farm next year.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Homage to Tony Liu



What a truly glorious thing; this phal has been in bloom for over four MONTHS! I bought it last year when I was mourning a big phalaenopsis I'd lost after more than fifteen years, and this is the first rebloom. This year, for the first time I can remember, all my orchids bloomed at the same time but this one has lasted by far the longest with eighteen 4½" splendid blossoms.

Thank you Tony Liu.

I usually take a few minutes before I check out at Wegman's to look at the orchids from Tony Liu's The Orchid Place. Usually I'm satisfied to just look but this lovely pale pink phal came home with me and now it has done so well, seems to be so strong and healthy, that I may add another someday.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sun & Snow



We couldn't manage a trip to the cape this month but it was important that I at least get to Massachusetts  to see my oldest living relative, my soon-to-be-97-year-old Aunt Bert. I was there for the first few inches of snow on Thursday but I left before the major storm on Saturday. I dread these early or late snow storms with heavy, wet stuff that takes down tree limbs and power lines and I feel for the people who are dealing with aftermath of this one.

Fortunately before the weather deteriorated I was able to have a good visit with my aunt and cousin. I stayed in the charming Chocksett Inn and we found a wonderful menu and great food at Cristina's.


Unfortunately I did not stop at the Donovan family farm in North Brookfield as I had hoped because my brother, for some unknown reason, still hasn't gotten around to sending me a portion of my mother's ashes to leave there. As far as I know he hasn't done anything with with them so today I'm going to call to tell him that I will be picking up the ashes and taking them to the cemetery myself before Thanksgiving. I will not leave Ohio without making sure this last bit of business is done and dusted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wool


due to arrive today from Aran Sweater Market

New subject: wool and whatever happened to it. 

I live where it's cold in the winter – and in the late fall and early spring. I live in a house that's old and bigger than two people really need so we try to keep the thermostat as low as we can. We dress for warmth.

I wear wool. I have a collection of wool sweaters but as I've had to retire a few of them in recent years, it has come as a great shock to discover how few wool sweaters are being sold now. It's one of my great regrets that I never mastered knitting so I don't know what I would do if it weren't for The Irish and their loyalty to the wool sweater. (Erin go bragh.)

There's another Irish-American who still seems to wear wool and doesn't he wear it well? I've been watching NBC's "Prime Suspect" in part because of Himself but wouldn't you know it, in this scene, Timoney (Bello) makes a crack about Sweeney's (Quinn) sweater! Arghh.


8:00 PM
The sweaters are perfect! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Roofs & Roofing


The Mister, working off the rent on our first abode, circa 1972

They finally finished the roof on Monday. The roofers understandably are trying to do too much before the weather changes so there are few details to take care of and more clean up to do but the new shingles look very good.

I hope this is my last roof, the last in a lifetime marked by several roofing jobs. 

The Mister was doing roofing the first summer we lived together and then did the roof and siding on the house we rented after we got married. 129½ West Washington Street, Athens Ohio.

After several years in Connecticut and New Jersey we bought our first house in Ashland, Kentucky. It was fairly decent new construction but the roof was put on without any felt and The Mister ended up putting on another new roof by himself while I repainted the siding.

Twenty-three years ago we bought these two acres knowing we would have to have professionals replace the original roof of cedar shakes covered by two layers of asphalt shingles, three layers on the porch. We used our lifetime allotment of landfill with the debris from that mess. I also remember we had an official drought that summer of 1988 until, of course, the roofers started to do the tear off and before they were halfway through we had a torrential storm that forced the closing of part of 81 due to flooding.

Now we've had this one done again and I'm glad to say it's probably the best looking roof we've ever lived under even if The Mister didn't do it.

Shutters



Although we didn't do the roofing, we did replace the double-hung windows ourselves that first year. The working shutters we removed in the process were in bad shape and for various reasons we put off replacing them – for twenty-three years. Where does the time go?

Anyway, the roof looks so good now and there seem to be so many more replacement shutters available nowadays that we're planning to replace the working shutters in the spring. We'll also be replacing the front door and I plan to finish it a chestnut stain. It's gonna be beautiful!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Buster!!


Buster, October 17, 2011

The saga continues. I suspect that Buster returned to see if the red squirrels were still occupying the attic, to see if the attic was going to be available for the winter. Cindy will keep it in her barn for a few days and then let it come and go, eventually deciding for itself whether or not to join the other flyers on and around the farm.

I'm not sure what we'll do now and Cindy says it's up to us. We don't want red squirrels in the attic for any length of time but as it gets colder the flyers are at risk if they're stuck in a trap for long. I guess we'll keep the traps going for a couple of weeks and then see where things stand. I just wish we could get the red male...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Not Buster



I'm not at all sure how I feel about this but the squirrels we're currently removing are NOT flyers after all, they're just some of the troublesome red squirrels. I don't know what happened to the flying squirrels that were in the attic last winter, I don't know if they left of their own accord or if the more aggressive red squirrels drove them off but none of the squirrels we've trapped in this week (now five) were Buster.

I didn't really look in the traps Thursday for fear of disturbing them but Cindy told me Friday and when I took a close look at the next capture I saw it was indeed a red.

Still neither The Mister nor I will forget watching Buster glide from the top of one chair to another one evening last winter before we ushered him/her out the front door. I hope there are flying squirrels gliding around somewhere nearby and I get to see one again.

Meanwhile I haven't checked the attic this morning but we will continue to trap what we can until spring when we'll remove the end-wall of the closet and critter-proof the vents.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Page Wildlife Center



I just can't believe the flyers squirrels stayed in the attic through all the roofing and I can't understand why I didn't trap any for a week or more and then yesterday, two! This morning I heard noises while I was still in bed and when I went up to check there were two what-look-to-be youngsters eating the seed that's scattered around the trap. This may take a while...

At least it seems flyers are a favorite of rehabilitators including Cindy Page and she will be eventually releasing these squirrels on her beautiful farm near Delphi Falls. Thank you Cindy and all the other dedicated people who do this kind of thing.

As for the attic, I don't think the squirrels are showing up in the traps because the they can no longer get out. I'm embarrassed to admit it but I think I finally figured out the most obvious entry point yesterday.

I had been focused on the driveway end of the house because of the dilapidated chimney. I knew the screen on the vent next to it had rusted away but the chimney ran inside the house and there wasn't purchase for critters to get to that vent. I completely overlooked the fact that the situation at the other end is an entirely different matter.

Unfortunately previous owners built a simple but useful closet at the other end of the attic and in doing so they eliminated human access to the two vents on either side of the fireplace chimney, the chimney that runs on the outside of the house giving the flyers an excellent climbing surface. It's one of those features of, as people often point out, an Amityville Horror House.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Buster's Back?



Damn. I was trying to beat the rain yesterday and didn't check the traps before I scrambled out to the garden. Since the work started on the roof I'd had two traps set in the attic but when the days passed with no sign of the squirrels I'd figured they had moved on. Anyway this morning I found a squirrel in one of the traps and I don't know how long the poor thing has been in there. He seems okay and now I'm just hoping I can keep him alive until I can get him to the rehabilitator this afternoon. Damn.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wicked Good Quince



I still haven't made a galette but I did cook up the first of the quince on Saturday. The week gave them a chance to ripen further. By the time I cooked them their fragrance filled the house and the cooked fruit is proportionately intense in flavor, absolutely wicked good.

The weather has been spectacular and should continue a few more days. I'm trying to use every moment to do what didn't get done the past couple of months for various reasons.

Today I head to garden where several of those reasons wait to be relocated. Halfway through my reconstruction of the garden beds I ran into a cache of debris that must have been buried when the flagstone walkways were constructed at the back of the house. I take these rocks as a particularly nasty insult because I really dislike the flagstone...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Cradle Will Rock



We had a lovely evening out last night. We had a nice Chianti with my paella (a delicious, very rich version, more like a risotto) and The Mister's jerk chicken at Dolce Vita before we walked over to the theater to see SU Drama's "The Cradle Will Rock".

Rodney Hudson and his students staged another top notch production and fittingly ended it with no curtain calls. There are occasions where I often find curtain calls unhappily break the spell created by the performance and especially with works that have real dramatic impact, I prefer to hold on to the experience as long as possible. Sometimes I don't even want to talk about it too much.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Driftwood



The truck arrived at 8. I think they should have waited until the roof dried off but they're hoisting the shingles up and slowly moving around as they unload them. Everything is very wet this morning from a very heavy dew. The neighbors' roofs look like there was some frost but the vegetation I can see from the house doesn't look like it was cold enough to kill anything.

So we're gettin' 'er done. The old shingles were still okay but like so many things they were going to have to be replaced while we're still here and only likely to get more expensive over time. There's also the happy prospect of not having to look at the shabby old, stained, faded, moss covered roof any longer but I'm not sure exactly what the new one will look like. Picking out the new shingles was a bigger chore than I expected.

I looked at brochures, samples and online photos and I swear no two looked the same for any of the colors I liked. We finally dragged home full sheets of several colors and I ended up holding them from a window while The Mister took pictures.

It was worth the trouble I think. The color we first picked turned out to be almost as light as the old faded shingles so we've ended up with the darkest of our choices, Driftwood.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quince!



It was a dreary morning so I putzed around and got to the market late. I knew it was my only chance to get quince and I knew I was probably too late to get any of the small crop that's usually available but, lo and behold, there were five baskets left! And I took them all!

As the dozen I have in the kitchen have warmed up, I've been able to catch a whiff of their lovely fragrance. First I'll make a galette to follow a dinner of Canada goose breast with porcini and polenta. In my book that makes it officially fall.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keepers



With some things there's never been a moment's hesitation; I always loved this relish dish. It was a wedding present to my parents from someone who must have known how much my mother loved Lilly-of-the-Valley. When I was growing up it was my job to arrange the cornichons, olives and crudité on this plate for special occasions.

I've had this plate now for more than ten years but during that time it was still, to my mind, my mother's plate. It's one of those funny, unexpected little shifts in the universe that happens when someone dies but only now does it feel like it's my plate.

The question remains what to do with it. I don't see the point in having such things just to stick them in a cupboard somewhere to be brought out for the increasingly rare, more formal dinner party and I don't have a breakfront where these things can be displayed.

I do have a lot of table top that I prefer to keep free of clutter but I've decided that I'm going to change that and keep at least one 'heirloom' on the dining room table or the sideboard, changing it every so often.

For the time being, the relish plate sits on the sideboard.